Ever since 2009, when Facebook was blocked in China following the unfortunate events of being used by the activists during the Ürümqi riots, the social media giant has had trouble entering the Chinese market. In turn, we’ve seen an increase in the use of VPN technology, as it enabled users across China to access the social network. However, the latest developments indicate that Facebook’s chances of entering the massive market are slim at best.
In fact, Facebook’s latest efforts seemed promising as the company was granted the permission to open a subsidiary company called Facebook Technology (Hangzhou). The plan was to launch a startup that would invest into and give professional advice to local businesses.
But the Chinese government pulled the plug on the startup incubator just one day after granting the permission. According to the New York Times, the permission is no longer valid, and, as a consequence, Facebook is no longer able to launch its subsidiary Facebook Technology in China.
An anonymous source told the New York Times that the problem comes from the inside Chinese regulatory bodies. Unable to resolve the disagreement between two Chinese authorities, the state had no other option but to deny Facebook’s request to open the subsidiary in question.
The local officials in Zhejiang are the ones that gave Facebook the initial permission to enter the market. The eastern Chinese province is primarily known for Alibaba since its headquarters are located in Hangzhou, the capital of the Zhejiang province. As it seems, the Cyberspace Administration of China, which oversees internet regulations, did not support the idea, which has led to the sudden rejection.
The Verge published Facebook’s official statement: “We are interested in setting up an innovation hub in Zhejiang to support Chinese developers, innovators and startups.”
However, as previously noted, it appears that China is trying to place a permanent ban on Facebook and is cracking down on any loopholes that could be exploited in favor of the social network. The Chinese regulatory bodies continue their endeavors ever since the initial Facebook ban.
It seems that China won’t forget the incident when Facebook allowed the Xinjiang independence activists to use it as part of their communications network.
Facebook’s previous try to enter the Chinese market failed as well. In 2015 the social media giant attempted to open an office in Beijing. They got the permit, but the operation was brought to a halt once the government pulled the business filing. That causes a lot of dissatisfaction not only from the Chinese citizens but from the vast amount of Western tourist who are looking for ways to unblock access to the widely used social network.
According to Mark Zuckerberg’s interview with Recode, the future doesn’t seem bright for Facebook in China. He also stated: “We need to figure out a solution that’s in line with our principles and what we wanna do, and in line with the laws there, or else it’s not gonna happen. Right now, there isn’t an intersection.”
China’s Internet Censorship and Regulations
Thanks to the Internet, China’s censors have a lot of work on their hands. In fact, China has the most extensive Internet censorship in the world. There are dozens of administrative regulations and laws concerning online restrictions. In fact, CNN claims that China has the largest Internet regulatory body in the world.
Thanks to the overreaching laws and regulations, Chinese authorities can censor any online content that they can render “bad” for their citizens. According to Xinhua, the Chinese-sponsored news agency, the censorship only targets harmful, violence-related, gambling-related, superstitious, and pornographic content.
It’s also worth mentioning that search engines that could potentially provide results, which are not in line with the Chinese law, might also be subject to censorship. The situation is so bad that 12 of the world’s top sites are not publicly available to the Chinese citizens.
Fortunately, there is a way for Chinese citizens to circumvent the Great Firewall. Virtual Private Network (VPN) allows Chinese citizens a way around the censorship by concealing their IP and masking their virtual location. However, the authorities are trying to crack down on the use of VPN services by banning any provider not approved by the state bodies.
The trend of censoring the Internet is somewhat on the rise, and with Uganda, Tanzania, Indonesia, Russia and a whole bunch of other countries instating devious laws with regard to Internet restrictions, the prospects of internet freedom don’t seem that bright. The silver lining seems to be that technological advancements that fight such regulations remain one step ahead.